|Car-kilometers per capita and personal consumption expenditures, 1990-2004. Click to enlarge.
Although improvements in energy efficiency have played a key role in limiting increases in energy use and CO2 emissions in IEA countries, the rate of these efficiency gains is currently only about half the rate seen in the 1970s and 1980s, according to a new publication by the International Energy Agency (IEA). Since 1990, the rate of energy efficiency improvement in IEA countries has been less than 1% per year.
The study, Energy Use in the New Millennium: Trends in IEA Countries, examines how changes in energy efficiency, as well as other factors such as economic structure, income, prices and fuel mix, have affected recent trends in energy use and CO2 emissions in IEA countries. Despite some positive developments, the new publication shows that IEA countries are not on a path to a sustainable energy future.
|Energy Savings from Improvements in Energy Efficiency since 1990, IEA14. Click to enlarge.
Energy efficiency savings since 1990 have resulted in CO2 emissions in the IEA being 14% (or 1.2 Gigatons of CO2) lower than they otherwise would have been, according to the study. (See chart at right.)
These savings are approximately equivalent to the annual final energy consumption and CO2 emissions of Japan and, by the end of the period analysed, resulted in annual fuel and electricity cost savings of at least US$ 170 billion.
The study notes that while new engine technologies and vehicle design have produced significant efficiency benefits in passenger cars, in many countries the benefits of introducing more efficient vehicles have been eroded by increased congestion, changes in driver behaviour and additional in-car amenities.
Electricity use in the household and service sectors is increasing much more rapidly than consumption of fuels, such as gas and oil, in these sectors. As a result, appliances and air conditioning are rapidly approaching space heating as the most significant source of CO2 emissions from households. On a more encouraging note, strong efficiency improvements are having a substantial impact in manufacturing. Energy use and CO2 emissions in this sector have remained almost unchanged since 1990, even though output has increased by nearly one-third.
The study calls for more timely and better information with which to judge the value of existing energy policies and to identify the stronger policies needed to meet the challenges identified by the G8 leaders.
Governments need to put substantially greater resources into developing and improving end-use data to enable effective monitoring of energy consumption and CO2 trends at deeper levels of detail.
We must find new ways to accelerate the decoupling of energy use and CO2 emissions from economic growth. The good news is that there is still substantial scope for cost-effective energy efficiency improvements in buildings, appliances, industry and transport. The bad news is we need to move much faster in realizing this potential. This will require strong and innovative action on the part of governments.—Nobuo Tanaka, Executive Director of the IEA
Nobuo Tanaka began serving as the Executive Director of the IEA on 1 September, succeeding Claude Mandil. Mr. Tanaka, a Japanese citizen who most recently served as Director for Science, Technology and Industry at the Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), is the first non-European to head the IEA.